PARIS, 10 JUNE: If Rafael Nadal truly was going to be challenged, if his bid for an unprecedented eighth French Open championship would be slowed even a bit, this might have been the moment. Leading by a set and a break 70 minutes into Sunday’s final against David Ferrer, another generally indefatigable Spaniard, Nadal faced four break points in one game. The last was a 31-stroke exchange, the match’s longest, capped when Nadal absorbed Ferrer’s strong backhand approach and transformed it into a cross-court backhand passing shot.
Ferrer glared at the ball as it flew past and landed in a corner, then smiled ruefully. What else was there to do? Dealing with Nadal’s defence-to-offence on red clay is a thankless task. His rain-soaked 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 victory over Ferrer on was Nadal’s record 59th win in 60 matches at the French Open and made him the only man with eight titles at any Grand Slam tournament.
"I never like to compare years, but it’s true that this year means something very special for me," Nadal said, alluding to the way he managed to come back from a left knee injury that sidelined him for about seven months.
"When you have a period of time like I had," he added, "you realize that you don’t know if you will have the chance to be back here with this trophy another time."On Saturday, Serena Williams won her 16th Grand Slam title and her first French Open championship since 2002, beating familiar foil Maria Sharapova 6-4, 6-4. The victory completed the No. 1-ranked Williams’ rebound from a shocking loss to 111thranked Virginie Razzano in the first round at Roland Garros a year ago. Since that defeat she’s 74-3, including titles at Wimbledon, the U.S. Open, the London Olympics and the season-ending WTA Championships.
Williams has won a career-best 31 consecutive matches. She improved to 14-2 against Sharapova, including victories in their past 13 meetings, with four of the wins this year. At 31, Williams became the oldest woman to win a major title since Martina Navratilova at Wimbledon in 1990 at age 33.As for Nadal, the question is how he does it, year after year.
He won four French Opens in a row from 2005-08, and another four in a row from 2010-13. "Rafael was better than me," said Ferrer, who had won all 18 sets he’d played the past two weeks to reach his first Grand Slam final at age 31. "He didn’t make mistakes."
A week past his 27th birthday, Nadal now owns 12 major trophies in all – including two from Wimbledon, one each from the U.S. Open and Australian Open – to eclipse Bjorn Borg and Rod Laver and equal Roy Emerson for the third-most in history.
Nadal trails only Roger Federer’s 17 and Pete Sampras’ 14.This was Nadal’s first major tournament after a surprising second-round loss at Wimbledon last June. Since rejoining the tour in February, he is 43-2 with seven titles and two runner-up finishes. He’s won his past 22 matches.
"For me, it’s incredible," said Toni Nadal, Rafael’s uncle and coach. "When I think of all that Rafael has done, I don’t understand it."
Let’s be plain: No one, perhaps not even Ferrer himself, expected Nadal to lose Sunday. That’s because of Nadal’s skill on clay, in general, and at Roland Garros, in particular .Nadal won a record 31 consecutive matches at the French Open until 2009, when Robin Soderling beat him.In 2010, Nadal started a new streak, which currently stands at 28.
Protesters briefly interrupted the French Open final Sunday between Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer, with one man jumping onto the court with a fiery flare spurting white smoke.
The spectator surged from the crowd near Nadal as he was about to serve for the second set, leading 5-1. Security personnel wrestled him to the ground and quickly dragged him away.
Another guard stood near Nadal, protecting him while the protester was subdued. Nadal later shook the bodyguard’s hand before resuming play. The match was delayed briefly.
Moments earlier, two people interrupted play by chanting while holding a banner in the upper deck of Court Philippe Chatrier until security led them away. Other protesters also brandishing red flares climbed to the top of the adjacent Court Suzanne Lenglen and unfurled a banner calling for the resignation of French President Francois Hollande.Christophe Fagniez, the tournament’s director of operations, later said: "The situation is under control, it’s in the hands of the police."
Rank slide after Grand Slam triumph
Rafael Nadal dropped from fourth to fifth in the latest ATP tennis rankings issued on Monday although he won a record eighth French Open title the previous day. With ATP rankings mathematics based on results over the last 52 weeks, Nadal merely defended the points from his 2012 success, allowing fellow-Spaniard David Ferrer to move ahead of him into a career-high fourth because he reached the final for the first time. But the in-form Nadal is expected to roar up the rankings over the next months when he has no 2012 points to defend owing to a long-term injury from June until February. French Open semifinalist Novak Djokovic remained top with 11,830 points, ahead of Andy Murray (8,310), who sat out the Paris grand slam injured. Roger Federer has 7,640, Ferrer 7,220 and Nadal 6,895. ATP top 10 as of 10 June (previous ranking in parenthesis): 1. (1) Novak Djokovic, Serbia, 11,830 points 2. (2) Andy Murray, Britain, 8,310 3. (3) Roger Federer, Switzerland, 7,640 4. (5) David Ferrer, Spain, 7,220 5. (4) Rafael Nadal, Spain, 6,895 6. (6) Tomas Berdych, Czech Republic, 4,515 7. (8) Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, France, 4,155 8. (7) Juan Martin del Potro, Argentina, 3,960 9. (9) Richard Gasquet, France, 3,090 10. (10) Stanislas Wawrinka, Switzerland, 2,810. agencies